Thailand Tourism Festival 2017: A Celebration of Culture, Food & Festivities
In this year’s Annual Tourism Festival, Thailand parades a fabulous show of cultural performances, provincial local treasures, exotic foods and visual treats – and we’ve been invited to be a part of it.
By Pema Choden Tenzin, Yeewong Magazine
On the invitation of Amazing Thailand, I had the privilege to be a part of the Thailand Tourism Festival: a magnificent celebration of the country’s many tourism attractions mainly focusing on the North, South, East, Central and the Northeast parts of the Kingdom.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in collaboration with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) hosted one of the biggest domestic travel events from 25th to 29th January 2017, specifically showcasing the provinces of the 5 regions. Held in Bangkok’s Lumpini Garden, the opening ceremony began with a colorful parade from the gate leading to the gigantic stalls stationed in various zones scattered in the vicinity. From dance performances representing the 5 regions, to exciting traditional drum demonstrations and a floating dragon (that’s right), the parade had a more mardi-gra sort of a feel, slowly leading spectators to the main show. As the afternoon mellowed to a more pleasant mood, the colorful parade became an exciting precedent to an even more grand exhibition for awaiting visitors.
Amongst the crowds of thousands, we were led to the main stage area of the opening ceremony. The stage was exquisitely decorated in a theme of gold and sparkled as we made our way to our seats. As we seated ourselves, quite in contrast to the glittery stage, a sea of darkly-clad spectators were seated in front of us – Thailand was still in mourning after the death of their Beloved King. This simple display of Thai people’s solidarity during a time of grief was quite touching and hit quite close to home as I folded the sleeves of my black tego. Some of the guests noticed my traditional attire and started talking to me. “You from Bhutan?” exclaimed one lady. “King Jigme was first world leader to pay respects after our King passed away,” she said happily and asked for a picture with me. I felt happy but quite guilty knowing that people like myself were reaping the benefits of the “King-Jigme-Effect” left behind by my King. Sort of like the time when few taxi drivers didn’t ask for payment from Bhutanese people because they loved our King so much.
And then it began. As if the stage wasn’t glittery enough, the lights brought the stage to life as a gorgeous MC made her way to the stage and started the program. The opening ceremony was presided by Deputy Prime Minister, H.E. General Tanasak Patimapragorn. He was accompanied by the Minister of Tourism and Sports, H.E. Kobkarn Wattanvrangkul, Chairman of the Board of TAT, Mr. Kalin Sarasin, Governor of TAT, Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn and Governor of Bangkok, Pol. Gen. Aswin Kwanmuang and other tourism executives.
Thai events sure know how to start a show and Amazing Thailand took it to another level. As the guests of honour lined up and started beating the drums with the chanting of a band on stage, fireworks were released from the stage. Yes, that’s how the Thais start a show. What followed the spectacular opening ceremony were traditional performances but that didn’t mellow down the spirit of the event…at all.
ZONES OF FAIRS AND FUN ACTIVITIES
By the time the opening ceremony ended, the sun had set and the crowd at the park’s main fair area increased. It was now time to explore the zones representing the 5 regions and showcasing the best of the provinces. From food, handicraft, clothes, accessories, souvenirs, the zones had everything wonderful Thailand had to offer.
The festival was divided into 10 zones. The Botanical Garden zone features a floral display that pays tribute to King Bhumibol along with an exhibition that travels through the development projectsthat he initiated during his reign. Another zone featured five villages, one for each region of Thailand that reproduces each region’s landmarks. The Northern village has local hill tribes and produce from the Royal Projects. The Northeastern Isan village has a replica of Phra That Phanom temple. Culinary delights from all five regions and the 50 areas of Bangkok were on sale in the third zone. A fourth zone presented travel information and updates on TAT’s activities and tourism campaigns. A range of food trucks, Otop products and goods from the Royal Projects were available there.
As I made my way around the many stalls, I couldn’t help but think how much more wonderful the exploration would have been, had I been in some shorts and flip flops. My traditional attire, (that I’m very proud of wearing FYI) wasn’t the best choice for a casual walk-around. But fortunately, my attention soon wandered towards the more festive sides of the event. From young kids, families, tourists, it was quite amazing to see how many flocked to the tourism event. One of the main reasons for the event’s grandeur was to attract not only tourists but locals as well – and by the looks of it, I think it really worked.
After exploring, eating, and doing a lot of walking around the fair, I think one of the main things I realized was how much the Kingdom had in store for visitors. Thailand isn’t just about shopping in the metropolitan, its political reputation, or red light sides of the city – the Kingdom has so many treasures, stories, cultural riches that deserve more attention and accolades.
The tourism festival was an immaculate and wonderful celebration of the Thai identity. The intricate details and patterns of the many displays tell a story of a way of life that is still preserved, protected and celebrated – and I thank the Tourism Authority of Thailand for inviting me to be a part of it.